SPEAK OUT! – Carmen Kumm
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Pittsville, WI, USA email@example.com
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
July 19, 2010 Age 41
4. How did your TBI occur?
I was T-boned in a car accident.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
When I was in the hospital
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have? (e.g., surgery,
I was airlifted to Marshfield hospital. I was treated for broken bones, but I’m not sure about surgery. I had a tracheotomy, and I was in a drug-induced coma.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was unable to respond or know who I was for about 2 ½ months.
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient or Out-patient and Occupational, Physical, Speech, Other)? How long were you in rehab?
I did In-patient and Out-patient therapy. I had occupational, physical, and speech therapies. I think it was about 8 months after my accident.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI? (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)
Memory, personality, temperament
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I worked so hard to be a high-school Spanish teacher again. That’s what I believe got me to how well I’m doing now. On May 2, 2013, I hit a student (sophomore boy) because he was “egging” me on, and he knew it. Then he reported me to the administration. Rather than let them fire me, I resigned after 25 years – 2 ½ years post-accident. I was so very angry afterwards. I believe up until about 6 months ago I was still angry, but now I love my life. There are days when I struggle, but, if I choose to take care of myself first, I get better.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
My ability to do more than one thing at a time
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
I enjoy my family much more.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
Honestly, God has done so much in my life as of late, or maybe I’m listening now.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My youngest daughter was 10 when my accident happened, and I wasn’t a very nice person for a long time. Our relationship struggled, but as of late it has improved. My eldest daughter had taken much of the responsibility for my three other kids, so I had to make sure she was reminded that she no longer needed to be the mom. That has greatly improved as of late – I don’t think I’ve had to tell her that in about 3 months. My youngest son was only 4 at the time, and we struggled too. I was so mean for a couple of years that he didn’t trust me, but that is returning too.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
No, I still have all the friends I had before and maybe more.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My husband is my main caregiver. My parents even moved for about 4 months to be closer to me.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I am working part-time at a local post office. In 10 years I will be 55. I’m not sure what my plans are. I hope to have an almost empty nest.
19. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors
Accept that you now have a new life to start and rejoice in it. Plan your days and plan for disaster and what you will do if it doesn’t go as planned. Have a back-up plan. Always assume it won’t go well so that you will know what to do if it doesn’t work.
20. Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Depression is something that I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge. Now I know it’s an issue for me, so I’m constantly working to keep it at bay. I try not to worry about things that I don’t have control over. I can’t waste my energy on that. It’s a commodity that needs to be saved. I know when I’m struggling too much that I need to stop and put myself first, and others will follow suit. For example, I’m too tired tonight, and my morning will be hard, so I’m taking care of myself tonight and my son is making his lunch for tomorrow.
Thank you, Carmen, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.
(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)
If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.